SIDNEY — Monica Lee, 38, of Sidney, lost weight two years ago and is really grateful that she now can visit a fitness center at any hour of the day or night — and it’s free.
Lee is an assembly worker at NK Parts (NKP) in Anna. The fitness center at the Sidney plant, along with other things like fruits and salads in the vending machines, recently earned the company an American Heart Association award as a Gold Achievement Fit-Friendly Worksite. It recognizes a workplace culture of wellness, a workplace that provides an environment that’s conducive to being healthy. NKP is the only Shelby County employer to be so honored for 2015. Wilson Memorial Hospital, now Wilson Health, won a gold award in 2014, but did not reapply for last year.
Ronda Fogt, NKP’s wellness and medical benefits manager, was aware of the awards opportunity from a job she had held elsewhere. But her current company had to make some changes to qualify. Senior management backed her plan.
“The organization has invested a large portion of financial support in this wellness program,” Fogt, a certified corporate wellness coach who studied at Georgia Southern University, said.
It only made sense to do so, according to Executive Vice President Craig Sherman.
“When it comes to our associates, which are the No. 1 important things in your company, the No. 1 thing for them is their health,” he said. “As a company, we have a responsibility to do anything we can do to encourage and improve their health and wellness. We get better productivity, reduced absenteeism, less turnover, because people are happy because they’re healthier. It’s a fundamental responsibility in today’s society for a company to care about its associates’ health.”
The changes started with a needs and interest assessment. The fitness center wasn’t always open 24/7, but after the company surveyed its staff in June 2015, a system was put in that allows employees access even when Fogt or her part-time assistant isn’t there.
NKP employees and their families can use the fitness center at no charge. Lee visits for a half hour to an hour, five days a week.
“The 24-hour access is the best thing they’ve done. It’s helped me maintain,” she said. “I first used it because there were incentives. They’ll come up with a program just for you. I have back issues. Ronda came up with exercises to strengthen my core. They really know what they’re talking about. “
In addition to increasing center hours, Fogt “had to get more detailed with our biometric screening. We had to create a few different policies,” she said.
For one, the percentage of healthy options in the vending machines had to change. NKP partnered with the vending company, AVI, to make sure that at least 25 percent of the stock in the machines was deemed healthy. Protein bars, salads, fruits, peanuts, water and fruit juice appeared. Green tabs made it easy for employees to know which were the healthy choices to make. Notices were posted about calorie counts and how many hours of exercise it would take to work off the calories.
“We want people to make those choices because they know the consequences. Do you know how long it will take to work off that sticky bun?” Fogt asked rhetorically. Healthy food began to show up at company events, too.
“A pizza party is fine, but offer salad, too,” Fogt said. Lee thinks that’s great.
“If you can’t make it to the store and you have to eat out of the machine, it’s guilt-free. I feel like I’m healthier,” she said.
Every month, there is a health seminar that workers can attend on their own time. Topics vary. There are also regular zumba and step aerobics classes; raquetball games are frequently played and the full-size basketball court can be reconfigured for volleyball games and tennis.
“Any time they’ve offered a class, I’ve tried it, except zumba,” Lee said. She has participated in aerobics, circuit training and toning classes.
The firm’s health insurance provider, United Health Care, provides an online wellness survey and reports its findings to NKP. Fogt said that 80 percent of NKP employees had participated in at least one wellness activity during 2015; 91 percent feel they can live a healthy lifestyle, but 60 percent said they need help.”
“We cover the entire spectrum of what it means to be well, not just nutrition and exercise but emotional health, mental health, financial health,” Fogt said. Individual health coaching is available. Through a partnership with Wilson Health, NKP employees can participate in the hospital’s occupational health activities and diabetes programs free of charge.
She has developed an active wellness committee and champions, employees in multiple departments who share information with their colleagues on the factory floor. Associates get annual wellness screenings and there are tobacco cessation classes and prescription drug therapy for people who want to quit smoking.
Fogt’s efforts have paid off. According to Beth Langefels, communications and marketing director of the American Heart Association Miami Valley Division, NKP is one of but nine companies and six schools in the Dayton region who qualified for the gold award. But gold is just the beginning for Fogt. She’s already thinking about how she can move her firm to the platinum level.
“We have room to grow. Next year, we will focus on hot points that kept us from achieving the next level. My goal is to win three awards next year, including the WELCOA Workplace Wellness Award. It’s the premium gold standard of wellness. I think we can do it. It’s going to take a little more engagement, a few policies, but I have faith we can get there,” said Fogt.